Figuring Things Out…How Did This All Begin??

I always try to look back and figure out how I got sick…when did my body turn against itself? Both Eastern and Western medicine seem to agree that people with autoimmune diseases have a trigger which set it off. You’re basically already wired to possibly have an autoimmune disease and then something sets it off and gets it going. If you have a first degree family member who has the disease, you are more likely to get it. And if you’re white and/or of Jewish descent, you are also more likely to have the gene for Crohn’s. Whether that gene gets mutated and activated is a whole other ballgame.

So, I automatically have a few things against me. I’m white and I’m Jewish. But, other than that I don’t know of a family member that had Crohn’s Disease. I was the chosen one! LOL  It’s all good though. Everyone has to battle something in their lives. This is my battle. Thinking back to how it began, I look at the stressors that have occurred in my life. I have a few major ones. When I was 10 my Stepdad, who raised me, had a massive stroke. I remember him coming home from work and not being able to walk. Absolutely terrifying. He was told he would never walk again…lucky for my family, my mother told him he had no choice but to walk again, and he did. But once he had that stroke, he had many TIA’s over the years…which are mini strokes. To have your dad forget your name can be traumatizing. Lucky for me I didn’t have health after this.

When I was 13 my house was blown up in a gas explosion. No exaggeration. My mother was in the only survivable place in the entire house. To walk up my neighborhood street and see my neighborhood looking like a war zone had to be the most traumatizing event in my life. I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching recently, and I truly believe that this event shaped me in many different aspects of my life. That would be hard for an adult to process, let alone a young girl. No wonder I have “selective amnesia” from these crazy times in my life. At this point in time, I think my body had the fight or flight response, which is why I started getting massive immune system responses after the explosion. The explosion happened in January of that year and I finally ended up in the hospital in May with acute mono. My body couldn’t fight it off so I got sicker and sicker. My dad was having TIA’s due to the mental stress of getting our lives back together. My mom was having massive Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome from being in the house. It was never brought to my attention until recently that I most like had it also. I was 13 and lost my home, my possessions, my security. January 19th, 1994, I went to school that morning and by that night I was going to Kmart to buy the necessities we needed to get through night. I also lost my sense of self…To be continued.

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My Life Diet

Everyone always wants to know what my daily eating habits consist of. To start off, I need to reiterate that I do have really strong willpower. To me, this isn’t just another diet…this is my life. I have been eating the way I do for 10 years now (other than going gluten-free, which has only been the last year and a half).

Breakfast
I tend to eat the same breakfast everyday unless I’m going out for breakfast. At home, I eat 1 banana and 2 paleo chocolate chip muffins. The recipe I have given the link to is amazing!! However, I add semi-sweet chocolate chips to the muffins, because I love sweets and chocolate makes everything better! If I drink anything in the morning I will have some hot tea. I’m not supposed to have coffee because it’s not good for Crohn’s, but I do treat myself to some occasionally.

I like to eat. I pretty much munch on things throughout the day. It never occurred to me that is probably why my children snack so much! Oh well…there are worse things! I usually workout in the morning so I will have a snack immediately following that. I eat some kind of fruit or a handful of peanuts or almonds. At one seminar I was at for Crohn’s, the doctor said patients with Crohn’s shouldn’t be eating a lot of raw fruit or nuts. I eat both…all the time. (fingers crossed!)

Lunch
For lunch I have a salad topped with grilled chicken, fruit, nuts,and hard-boiled eggs. If I’m not that hungry I might just eat an apple with peanut butter. If I’m at a field trip for the kiddos, I will pack myself gluten-free bread and chicken salad. Other than eating that a few times a year, I do not eat any kind of bread…fake or not.

In the mid-afternoon I get my sweet cravings…and at night…well, basically all the time. I eat one of two things to take care of those cravings. I have a square or 2 of 85% dark chocolate. I love bitter chocolate. I don’t force myself to be healthy in that way. My newest guilty pleasure is Starbucks dark hot cocoa. I heat up almond milk and make myself some good ‘ol hot chocolate…the healthy way. I like to drink that at night. It definitely has a soothing effect.

Dinner
For dinner I eat some kind of meat, a vegetable, and rice or potatoes. I make meatloaf, sweet and sour chicken, brisket, soups, stir-fry, fried rice, baked turkey breast, salmon cakes, or whatever else I want to make. Those are some of the examples. I have learned though not to stuff myself. I used to do that all the time and it just added to the belly bloat and discomfort. That’s also another reason I find it beneficial to munch throughout the day.

The things I don’t eat include…no deep fried foods, limited coffee, no gluten and no dairy. I have a huge variety of foods that I can eat though. As far as drinks, I live on teas. And I’m not perfect…I use fake sweetener in the teas that I drink. It is what it is. For me, this life diet is not a choice. It’s not an option. I will live like this the rest of my life. I always say I’m the Queen of Substitutions because you better believe if there’s a food that I want, I will find a way to duplicate it in a healthier way and make it happen!

I Should’ve Been a Doctor

That’s right. I should’ve gone to medical school. But I didn’t…so on to bigger and better things. I say this because actually I’m pretty darn confident that I’d be a damn good doctor. I might not have many patients because I’m kind of like Dr. Phil. I tell it like it is. But, really, after everything I’ve learned from having an autoimmune disease, I feel like I could do a better job with patients than some of the doctors I have had.

For starters, I spoke at a nutritional seminar a few weeks ago, not as an expert, but as someone who has dealt with Crohn’s. My best friend came with me and after hearing the doctor speak about Crohn’s, turned to me and said “You’re gonna blow the lid off this place.” Everything the doctor said is the exact opposite of what I do to stay healthy with Crohn’s. It was actually pretty shocking. However, I went 6 years misdiagnosed! Six years! That is inexcusable. I went to multiple doctors all of whom told me it was in my head. Having massive blood with every bowel movement was apparently in my head…along with the 14 hour episodes of vomiting and excruciating pain. Not to mention the doctors I went to about the horrible inflammation in my mouth…to the point that it hurt to smile and to eat. Really?! Maybe some of these doctors need to step it up on their game. As you can tell, this gets me pretty heated. I went to Hopkins knowing it was one of the best hospitals in the world. They did finally diagnose me with the Crohn’s, but other than that they made me sicker. Doctors in this part of the world treat with pharmaceuticals. They band-aid the problems. They don’t even try to figure out the source. I believe that we need medicines. I go to Medical Doctors too, I’m not just some hippie that does crazy natural stuff. But somehow we have to realize that treating ourselves with medications isn’t always the answer. In my case, it only made me worse.

You have to learn to be your own advocate. You have to do your research. I allowed the doctors to tell me it was all in my head because I figured they knew best. Maybe if Google was more popular back then I could’ve googled my symptoms! I probably could’ve diagnosed myself much quicker. I just wish there were more doctors that would see things from both perspectives…meaning alternative medicines vs. western medicine. I think we’d all be in better shape if both sides were to come together more. In the end, it may have taken me a long time to figure myself out, but I did it. I’m proud of myself for getting to the point that I’m at and I hope I’m able to help others get there even quicker.

Pregnancy: My Official Break From Crohn’s

Let me start off by saying–I am NOT pregnant. I’ve been there done that 3 times and unless I get a free full-time nanny, I will never be pregnant again! But, I thought I better touch on this subject anyway…mainly because I’ve been craving so many things I can’t eat, and pregnancy is the one time I can!

Nothing in my life goes according to plan…why should my pregnancies be any different?? I had just gotten back from my honeymoon a week or so earlier and I had terrible belly pain. So bad that I had to go to the emergency room. I was so upset because I figured it must be my Crohn’s. After running numerous tests the doctor said everything came back fine. I asked what it could be?? She said, “You’re Pregnant.” What??? How did that happen? Well I know how it happened but I was told I couldn’t get pregnant. I was 23 years old. I had been well for exactly one year. Because of my Crohn’s screwing up my body so much I didn’t have periods for about 5 years or so. I had only had 2 periods before I got pregnant. Now I can get pregnant if my husband looks at me the wrong way!

Of course when I found out I was nervous….that’s an understatement. I was immediately considered “high risk” because Crohn’s babies can have low birth weights. But that just goes to show you how healthy I was. My baby girl was measuring way above where she was supposed to from a very early gestational age. All 3 of my girls weighed over 8 pounds when they were born. They were all c-sections and I didn’t have one problem with any of the births.

However, the BEST thing about me being pregnant (besides feeling the babies), was that I could eat whatever I wanted!!! I could eat french fries, hash browns, chicken wings…all in moderation of course! I am very lucky the my Crohn’s goes into complete remission when I’m pregnant. I don’t have an ounce of problems. I never even had problems with it after the pregnancy. I just went back to my normal eating a few weeks before the baby was born. I gained 60 pounds with each pregnancy. That proves how well my Crohn’s does when I’m pregnant.

Don’t get me wrong, I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum  with my 3rd child. That is a long term for excessive vomiting. Fun fun!! And that has nothing to do with Crohn’s. It actually meant the pregnancy was super healthy…I just vomited for 15 weeks and felt like I was going to die. And that’s just one of the reasons I will NEVER have another child.

The bottom line is that I could never have had such healthy pregnancies, let alone even get pregnant if it wasn’t for the natural treatments I do. Acupuncture is what mainly got me to that point. It may have gotten me there a little sooner than I expected but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am so grateful that I have 3 beautiful little girls. And as a mother I am more than confident that if my children ever have to deal with an autoimmune disorder I know EXACTLY what to do for them!

No Summer Vacation From Crohns

Last week I was on vacation at Deep Creek Lake. A beautiful, serene atmosphere and no internet to write my blog. But, I figured that was a good excuse! Family time is important. We did waverunners and zip lines. I was quite proud of myself for being the only mother doing the obstacle courses. It made me feel young! Although, I am only 32!! The problem is, being on vacation leads me to “treat” myself a little too much with foods I’m not used to eating. I’ll be honest. I had some bites of fried chicken wings, a gluten-free pepperoni pizza (which tore my stomach up!) and multiple Snickers bars…my absolute weakness! After 9 1/2 years of being in remission I’ve figured out that I can treat myself every once in awhile. A “treat” for me includes a cup of coffee or a Snickers. Yep, I’m pretty darn strict on myself, but my willpower has paid off. I’m healthy and I’m in amazing shape. But, it’s crazy how one week of multiple treats can effect me. 

Crohn’s Disease doesn’t care if you’re on vacation. It doesn’t care if you’re having sweet cravings and need a Snickers. The bottom line is I figured out pretty quickly that I better get my rear in gear and get back on track! And it’s not even like I went crazy eating french fries or something! But it is not worth it to me to be sick. I enjoy the foods that I do eat on a regular basis. I make all kinds of awesome foods that are completely natural. Sometimes a girl just needs a coffee and a Snickers! Seriously! I guess I just need to treat myself a little less often. I’m so lucky that I am at a point with my disease that treating myself every once in awhile doesn’t hurt me. I used to be so sick that having one bad piece of food would throw me into a full blown attack. It really amazes me how far I’ve come.

When I talk to other people with Crohn’s, I find it interesting that no one wants to cut foods out of their diets. I really don’t get that. I’ll be honest…I’m not the most sympathetic person sometimes. People definitely don’t do all they can to help themselves. I don’t believe in excuses. I do what I have to do whether I like it or not. And so, even though I would like to have multiple goodies on my summer vacation, I can’t. Good thing I don’t take many vacations!! It doesn’t agree well with my belly. Luckily, I’m back home. I’m back to my normal eating and I’ve learned that the only time I can eat what I want is when I’m pregnant…which I plan on never being again!! LOL  That blog will follow, on what it’s like to pregnant with Crohns.

A New Normal

The past couple of weeks I’ve had multiple life stressors occur. Some which have been out of my control, such as getting sick. Getting tonsilitis shouldn’t be a big deal, but when you have Crohn’s you just never know how medication is going to effect you. I’ve learned through all of my experience with Crohn’s and getting involved with natural medicine, that antibiotics are usually not very good for me. Granted, sometimes we don’t have a choice. I usually wait and see if my body is going to fight off an infection before I go to the doctor. I’ve had doctors in the past that would automatically put me on antibiotics. I think that’s partly to blame for my Crohn’s Disease. This past time I got on antibiotics and of course I loaded up on probiotics too, which is my best line of defense. So far, so good.

Then other major stressors in life occur. My stepfather who raised me is in his late 70’s and has a lot of health issues. I think watching a parent go downhill is probably one of the hardest things in life to deal with. It’s incredibly stressful and heart-wrenching. In the past that type of stress would flare up my Crohn’s. I still wait and wonder if I’m going to have a flare up when things get crazy in my life. 

Then there are other things in life that most people deal with and don’t have to think about their health. I was so upset about my Kindergartener having issues at school that I was having pains in my stomach. That is not normal. But, with an autoimmune disease there is a new sense of normal. Sometimes that means worrying about your health. I always try to think positive no matter the circumstances. Sometimes life can feel like it’s falling down around you…but to me, the most important thing in life is my children. If they are happy and healthy than I can conquer anything. And I want my children to know that I’m doing everything in my power to be healthy so I can live a long, healthy life.